Futures edge lower ahead of top-level U.S.-China trade talks

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By Shreyashi Sanyal

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures edged lower on Thursday, as high-level negotiators from the United States and China geared up to meet for the first time since late July as they try to hammer out a deal to end a 15-month long trade war.

Wall Street had a roller-coaster week so far, with developments in the trade war stealing the spotlight. All three major indexes ended the previous session almost 1% higher on optimism that the two sides could agree to a partial trade deal.

Those hopes strengthened after Bloomberg reported the United States was weighing a currency pact with China, but dampened again on Thursday as China urged the United States to stop unreasonable pressure on Chinese companies.

Further denting sentiment, the South China Morning Post reported the United States and China made no progress in deputy-level trade talks earlier in the week.

Equity markets have also been rankled by weak economic indicators showing a sharp contraction in U.S. manufacturing and a bleak reading on business activity, bolstering bets of another interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve to combat a slowdown.

Traders currently see an 85% chance of the central bank lowering borrowing costs at its policy meeting in October, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

Apple Inc (O:) inched 0.1% higher in premarket trading after Longbow Research upgraded the company to “buy”, citing higher iPhone 11 demand.

Apple suppliers Skyworks Solutions Inc (O:) and Qorvo Inc (O:) gained 2.2% and 3.7%, respectively, after Cowen and Co upgraded its rating on both the companies, expecting them to benefit from higher iPhone demand.

At 7:28 a.m. ET, were down 58 points, or 0.22%. S&P 500 e-minis were down 6 points, or 0.21% and were down 14.25 points, or 0.19%.

Cisco Systems Inc (O:) slipped 1.8%, after a report that Goldman Sachs (NYSE:) downgraded the network gear maker’s shares to “neutral”.

Investors are also awaiting the third-quarter earnings season, which kicks off next week. Analysts now expect earnings for S&P 500 companies to drop by 3.1% year-on-year, the first contraction since an earnings recession that ended in 2016.

On the data front, the Labor Department is expected to release its September consumer price index at 8:30 a.m. ET. The reading is expected to have risen 0.1%, same as the month before.

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